The new strategic importance of HR

 

Chris Wakely

Executive Vice President

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HR as an industry is still in its infancy, having only really become of strategic importance for business growth in the last few decades. In the early days, HR professionals performed administrative tasks, helped employees with paperwork, and kept track of vacation and other benefits. But as the evolution continues, HR functions are set to have perhaps the biggest impact on how we’ll work tomorrow.

A brief history of HR

In the early 1900s, employers began forming workplace “personnel departments” in an effort to resolve growing labour union- and wage-related disputes. The personnel manager’s main responsibility was to keep track of employee attendance and oversee general safety requirements. Personnel departments began making the shift to human resources during the post-war era, assuming more responsibility by implementing training and development programs. During the late 2000s, HR was mostly considered a cost centre focused on hiring, payroll, and employee relations. As organizations began to recognize that employee satisfaction can benefit the company, HR departments moved closer to workforces, introducing employee development programs, assistance programs, and more.

Today’s HR technologies

As more value is placed on talent management, HR takes on an even more strategic role at the beginning of the 21st century, providing input on business decisions such as when to downsize, outsource, or recruit talent. They take a leap into employee benefits and rewards, placing focus on policies that reflect the needs of the workforce. With billions of dollars pouring into engagement technologies today, HR leaders begin incorporating new platforms and tools to increase engagement and performance. With the help of analytics and a more empowered role, HR has taken a leadership role for shaping organizational culture, managing talent and overseeing employee goal setting. Today’s HR technologies – which can leverage all sorts of employee data – are empowering HR professionals to make more strategic decisions than ever before. They’re optimizing performance and productivity on a large scale, and ensuring that recruiters can attract and retain top talent. This is just one of many reasons why today’s HR leaders are central to all business high-level strategy discussions.

What Can HR Technology Do for You?

Getting on board with the latest technologies might mean a bumpy learning curve, but the opportunities heavily outweigh the growing pains. Communications have become easier with the rise of the internet and smartphone usage. Access to information and data as well as the use of personal devices for communications is still a challenge, especially for larger more complex employers who haven’t yet moved personal data into the cloud. Portals are great for desk based workers but app based technology and the use of push notifications is necessary to reach those who don’t have a work email address for example. There are a number of ways organizations can thrive once they successfully incorporate HR tech into their workflow:

  • Higher quality recruitment – ata allows HR to assess which recruitment channels are most effective, while AI can help identify candidates with specific skill sets.
  • Greater productivity – analyst s from Gartner predict that AI will recover 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity by 2021.
  • Training and development – talent analytics can identify skills gaps and types of training programs which can improve staff performance.
  • Understanding employee value – HR software can help determine salary and benefits for employees by computing the financial value they bring to the organization.

Tools to help HR professionals

The challenge is not only getting these new technologies to integrate with existing systems for meaningful insight, but learning how to redefine processes to maximize technology and still finding the time to manage the “human” side of human relations. Benify’s interface is designed with the employee experience in mind: easy to engage, navigate, control, participate, and enrol in benefits and activities. Plus, with the app and because it is a cloud platform, employees don’t need a desktop to be in touch with their employment offer. The portal can be accessed anytime and anywhere – this “anytime, anywhere” access also gives HR the flexibility to push out communication.

The human side of HR

Technology can help HR send personal content to employees based on the information the organization has on them and provide a greater number of personal touchpoints whilst the employee is at work. The human side of HR does not disappear and it’s more important than ever to be human and authentic in the way companies communicate with their workforce. Ulf Holmgren, Regional Benefits Lead at AstraZeneca and one of Benify’s customers, agrees: – I welcome digitization and love technology but machines don’t understand feelings. Human contact is better when coaching employees. Feedback and difficult conversations are tasks for a person, not a machine.


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